Deciding you want to try this sets you up for your first set of decisions as a
company - to wit, are we talking about full on
Working-From-The-Other-Side-of-the-Country or are we talking about the ability
to work from home a few days of the week, yet based in a local office?
a difference because the former requires a complete building of the
infrastructure of your company, its culture and how it does things day-to-day
around the concept of telecommuting, whereas the latter usually means tagging
on of some extra processes so someone can get some stuff done at home a few
times a month - which is not the same thing at all
Either way, some face time will be required at some point - especially when collaborative
tasks are undertaken - but there's a need to understand the subtle but very
crucial difference of being remote full time and on site occasionally, and the
reverse. Tom Arundel of Introversion has this comment -
"We have an office in London which acts as the 'mother-ship'.
Whilst we're generally fairly flexible about hours and location everyone
gravitates there for meetings and code jams for fixed periods.
Clearly working from home can offer some lifestyle benefits (so long as
you have a decent space; for example, I have an attic-office in Germany (I'm
here now) / Chris has his dev room in Cambridge kitted out with lots of toys)
but it can also hinder the ability to teamwork, hence the requirement for week
long intense coding sessions (code jams) where everyone's locked
(metaphorically) into a room."
So assuming it's an all-out Working-From-Home decision, on
to the next point. Note: some of these points are just as valid even if you
aren't going to the full-on Home-Based Development route.
Everything or Nothing
A major idea shift is the understanding that this remote working issue will
pervade every part of your development process. Like multiplayer, this is not
something you can just tack on as an addition to how you do business currently.
To be able to successfully allow people to work from home it has to be part of
the core tenets of how you develop, built in from the get-go. There has to be
buy in on this approach from everyone.
Working remotely produces a new set of problems that traditional
"show up to the office" development just doesn't have, and often it
can provide frustration on the part of both the employees as well as the
management when something goes off the rails.
This happens and will continue to
happen until the company becomes better versed in how to do this properly.
However, if this is entered into halfheartedly, then it just gives those who aren't
behind it a reason to moan rather than an opportunity to find new ways to make
Not Me, Guv'nor!
Something else to consider is the understanding that this is not for everyone. And that goes doubly for managers. To
work remotely, successfully, takes a specific frame of mind. You can't just
close the office tomorrow, have an infrastructure in place and assume everyone
will just do dandy.
There are those who can work remotely and there are those
who find it hard - and that's no reflection on those people. It's just simple recognition
of the fact that there are people for whom this will not work.
There are those who want
to be in an office interacting with people all day and cannot function any
other way. However, you need to be able to identify those people when
interviewing so you can pass on them if you are 100% working remotely - it'll
become very apparent fairly quickly anyway, providing you set up your metrics for
measuring effectiveness correctly.
Management is especially hard remotely, particularly if you
have people who require micromanaging in order to make progress.
Workin' 9 to 5
The next thing to think about is the appreciation that the
hourly based work day is basically getting tossed out. If you are a manager who
likes to know you have a body sitting working hard for eight hours because you
are there making sure they are, then this is not going to work for you. Working
remotely is all about the results and
never about the bum in chair.
Sure, there are ways to ensure that people are actually working for the time they
say they are, but you aren't there and you have no idea if they are really
spending the last hour working or playing solitaire or whatever. Ultimately the
whole concept of clock watching has to go - your metrics (i.e. that which is
measurable about what people get done) is about what they get done, not how
long they spend doing it.
Another aspect of being remote is the ability to see the
wood for the trees, which is a constant seeing-nothing-but-the-office problem.
Sometimes it's hard to know what problems are, or how to solve them simply
because you are too close to them. Working remotely can help with that. Thomas
"I quite welcome the chance to have some
flexibility - it means I can spend some quality time with my kids who live in Germany. Also whilst I'm there, there's an
opportunity to get some 'thinking time' - a valuable commodity these days which
I rarely get when I'm in London. In building a company there's a
lot of scrabbling around in the weeds - a lot of details that you need to get
right and sometimes changing location for a bit can help take a different view
of where you should be focusing your effort..."